Updated: May 24
Now that the staycation is in fashion, the North Coast 500 route has become a popular destination for those looking for an answer to the USA’s Route 66. Scotland’s Route 66 is the NC500, exactly 516 miles of stunning scenery, unique history, and unmissable experiences. The best way to travel the NC500 route is by campervan, providing the comfort of a hotel stay with the flexibility of a camping tour. The dilemma appears after you’ve secured your Scotland campervan rental. Where to go? What to see? Without further ado, here are the top 5 things to see whilst driving the North Coast 500.
1 .Whiskey Distilleries Scotland’s whiskey is famous the world over, and there are many distilleries on the NC500 offering guided tours. Whilst we don’t condone drinking and driving, it would be a crime not to visit one of these distilleries. Once out of Inverness, the NC500 start point, your first stop should be the Glenmorangie Distillery Visitor Centre (run by the “Willy Wonka of whiskey” Dr Bill Lumsden) offers tours with a two dram tasting at the end. Or alternatively try Clynelish Distillery, which distils Highland Malt—a vital component of Johnnie Walker whiskey.
2. Dunrobin Castle As the largest grand house in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms, Dunrobin Castle has been the home of the Sutherland Clan for over 600 years. The Castle in its current form appears like a French chateau, with Gothic turrets and a 38m clock tower. During the summer months visitors can get a taste of ancient hunting techniques with a falconry display featuring Peregrine and Gyrfalcon as well as Harris hawks. Dunrobin rightly refers to itself as the jewel of the Highlands.
3. Achmelvich Beach No Scotland campervan holiday would be complete without a day on one of its pristine northerly beaches. The best is Achmelvich Beach, not far from Lochinver. Its bleach-white sandy beach has been called the most enticingly beautiful beach in Northern Scotland. It’s popular with campers, kayakers and windsurfers, and is perfect for a family beach trip—just don’t let the three-mile single track leading there put you off! Nature-lovers may even be rewarded with views of dolphins and porpoises on a good day. This beach really does have it all. 4, John O’Groats Whilst John O’Groats is not the most northerly point on mainland Britain, it is the most northerly village, and so deserves to feature among our top 5 NC500 stops. Although many treat this stop as vital for its “end of the road” feel, there is nevertheless plenty to see and do, from wildlife spotting to day-trips to the Orkney islands, John O’Groats is not to be missed. It’s an integral component of the Scotland campervan experience, so grab a photo for Instagram and head on your way.
5. Bealach na Ba
The Bealach na Ba is a historic and quite famous pass through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula. Bealach na Ba, meaning pass of the cattle, was used in earlier days to drive cattle from Applecross and surrounding settlements to other parts of the Highlands. Crossing the Bealach na Ba is an adventure for several reasons. This single track road has some Alpine-like hairpin bends, and the gradients approach 20%, but for pure road trip thrills there is no rival in Britain. Though the pass is not recommended for caravans, a small campervan hire in Scotland is no problem. Strap in and prepare yourself for a drive of a lifetime.